People talking’ #17

It being the weekend that truffle growers from all over New Zealand meet to discuss their trade and to eat the fruits of their endeavours, I will be absent from the Hot Topic helm for the next few days. Please use the occasion to discuss anything and everything climate-related, from the state of the climate to bizarre holes in Siberian tundra that may be caused by dragon breath… Keep it polite, please.

13 thoughts on “People talking’ #17”

  1. Last night I saw the world and NZ premier screening of ‘Hot Air’, the documentary about NZ’s 20 years of failed climate policy.
    It was very well done. The mix of recent and not so recent interviews, voice -overs (not many) and archival footage worked well. The overall conclusion was that each time politicians and policy makers tried to set up a carbon tax or the emissions trading scheme, the big business lobbyists simply outlobbied them. So not an uplifting message. My friend Jonathan said that successful climate change communication needs to end or conclude on a positive note, and ‘Hot Air’ didn’t – it concluded with the 2008 election victory by National. But as Kevin Anderson would say, how can we respond unless we take off our rose-tinted glasses and see these political realities with brutal honest clarity?

    There was a lot of interesting archival footage of the lobbying by the Business Roundtable (Roger Kerr) the Greenhouse Policy Coalition, and public relations consulatants like Barry Saunders and Chris Baker (now at Straterra). I hadn’t relaised that Roger Kerr and the Business Roundtable had brought denier spokespersons Fred Singer and Richard Lindzen to NZ in the early 1990s to counter Simon Upton’s proposed carbon tax.
    Pete Hodgkinson in his interview admitted that the business lobbyists basically again won the debate about a carbon tax in 2002 about the time of the ratification of Kyoto. He also indicated that Federated Farmers had set him up for the “Fart Tax” debacle by saying they were okay with his proposed “CH4 N2O research levy” before launching their counter strike.

    David Parker talked about how Labour took a “whole of cabinet push-back” approach to the proposed emissions trading scheme in order to try to counter the business lobbying. Lobbying still featured some denial (no warming since 1998 etc) but was mainly phrased in terms of costs to the economy, jobs, competitiveness. Geoff Bertram talked about politicised economic consultants piping their clients tune. Jeanette Fitzsimmons said all the various business interests lobbied for preferential treatment – they were in favour of emissions trading AS LONG AS they would be sellers of free credits and not buyers!

    Guy Salmon talked about the worst ever acronym for a comittee that Simon Upton had set up. Whoa-Go-Cop. WOGOCOP, the Working Group on Carbon Dioxide Pollution.

    I’d certainly recommend seeing ‘Hot AIr’ if you can.

    1. And Arden in Parliament the other day – saying he would drive his tractor up Parliament steps again – Depressing.
      No I really can’t watch that sort of thing It just is too sickening. Our collective stupidity is almost too much to bear at times. We had the chance back in the 90’s and really blew it away.
      We are doing the same thing with the rest of the environment as well – treating the commons with distain and as a sewer for our garbage.

      1. I attended the second screening.
        As everyone acknowledges, including Alister Barry and Abi King-Jones, it is a downer, yet I would say it is a must see.

        Hot Air depicts the emergence of the stakeholder-at-the-table concept and the subsequent erosion of democracy. I see the Maori party as having painted itself into a corner with the same concept. Julia Gillard in Australia did not want to grapple with climate change but being forced to do so had the wisdom to exclude the fossil fuel “stakeholders” from the table via a straight carbon tax. Kevin Rudd had let the vested interests weck his own plan as in NZ and elsewhere..

        I was interested that a carbon tax was what everyone with any real intent to mitigate climate change, went for and an ETS scheme only came into being as something doable given the rout of carbon tax schemes by self described “stakeholders”.

        Having put in all that effort David Parker remains wedded to it. After the showing he repeated his claim that the basic structure is still there, it only has to be tweaked a little, particularly with respect to exclusion of cheap overseas carbon credits which national has refused to do. I’m not so sure about its effectiveness even then. There was no reference made to the Greens proposed Carbon Tax but Generation Zero having some conference of their own on the Shore got a favourable mention.

        So what of coal miners then? It would be cheaper to pay them their going rate (excluding the big salaries of their bosses) until the pension came due and perhaps even find them alternative work, than keep on mining and burning coal. He and Alister and the Chaiman managed to express in different ways the answer to the tragedy of the commons although that was not mentioned as such. We are all stakeholders in planet earth and certain corporate “stakeholders” see themselves as directors. They risk getting their reward for misleading the investors – we the voters.

        I was impressed with the power of this archival mining that made up most of the film content. Why not include interviews with the current national polititcians? The answer was that what one achieved was ten minutes of spin and nothing of substance said which would make an overlong and poor presentation!.

        It would appear that officials and ministers were at a disadvantage in dealing with lobbyists because they did not have the information necessary.

        There was disbelieving laughter from the audience at the sheer mendacity of some of the arguments expressed by the lobbyists and a horrified silence at the sight of forests being logged to clear the way for intensive dairy farming. Previously there had been shots of the same forest in the context of some projects only permitted if tree planting to sequestrate the same volume of carbon emissions went ahead. With the change of government, in one of the cases mentioned, not a tree was planted.

        Some book I read, published just after the second world war,referred to the problem of the “forces of darkness” acting through interlocking directorates. “No nation is free of this attempted control” the author wrote. Hot Air documents such a phenomenon..

        1. Thanks Noel – I wish I had more fortitude – and was closer to where a screening might be. You never know it might find it’s way to Thames 🙂 A very comprehensive review. Thanks for that.

  2. I just fielded an email from The Climate Voter team with a heads up that they’re headed for the High Court 19th August and that they would appreciate any contributions for the costs therein.
    The powers-that-be have deemed Climate Voter to being electioneering with all the impositions that implies. The line is….

    According to the Electoral Act, an advertisement “in any medium that may reasonably be regarded as encouraging or persuading voters to vote, or not to vote, for a type of party” could be seen to be an election advertisement, whether or not a party was named.

    The trouble with that interpretation is that even felt-tipping a Hitler moustache on a Conservative Party poster could be considered electioneering.

    Here’s a chance to put our money where our mouths are. Every little helps.

  3. The best way to deal with carbon emissions is simple regulatory control over emissions, and incentives schemes for forests. You have about 6 major sources of emissions to consider so this shouldn’t be impossible. Environmental problems are normally dealt with by regulation and standards etc.

    The ETS was only ever adopted to placate commercial interests. It has failed so there is no point going on with it.

  4. Also saw ‘Hot Air’. Good documentary. I liked that it opened with 1988 and Cyclone Bola and the US drought and then noted scientists saying that the debate on human caused global warming was over. It was a reminder of how much was certain, before business and political groups became interested in promoting uncertainty.

    I thought that there were two important points that the film missed. First, on the Stratford Thermal Station that got called in, while the Board of Inquiry said trees must be planted, Simon Upton softened that to: ‘plant trees only if you fail to displace existing inefficient plant’. The full story of how the benchmark of existing efficiency/inefficiency was set needs exploring. I am told there was a lead in time in which the electricity sector had the opportunity to fudge the numbers sufficiently that no trees ever got planted. A good research project for someone there.

    Second, the film did not deal with the huge setback caused by Labour’s deal with NZ First after the 2005 election to ditch the carbon tax and undertake a review (which ultimately led to the ETS). The fact that Labour was so ready to trade away this item of policy is significant, as also is NZ First insistence on it being an issue in negotiations.

    NZ First has consistently opposed climate change policies such as the ETS and carbon tax. Although, according to their website, NZ First doesnt currently have any particular policy on climate change:

    No one in media seems to be asking them about it. Do they actually accept that human driven climate change is happening? I checked out comments on the climate voter initiative and they seem to be flying under the radar. This may become important once again if they hold the balance of power at the election.

    It will be interesting to see what, if any reaction they have to today’s story about NZ getting its first climate refugee – if media bother to ask.

  5. I am giving another talk on climate change and brushing up on the latest news. Frankly it scares the hell out of me. Looking back at the old records the CO2 level in an ice age is 180 ppm and in a warm period 280 ppm and this 100 range normally changes the temperature by 6C. We are now at 400 PPM. 120 ppm above a warm period. Where is this taking us? Its not good.

    1. That thought scared the bejesus out of me too. But maybe the warm period was the result of orbital/angle/solar output/etc changes in the Milankovitch cycles rather than or in addition to atmospheric CO2.
      Otherwise we are down Crap Creek in a barbwire canoe.
      Fingers crossed.

      1. When last I looked at the graph of sea level change from the last ice age I saw it as an exponential curve – a period of low sea level over about 7000 years matched by a period of high sea level varying very slightly until recently over 8000 years with a steep near linear rise inbetween over a similar period. Hansen compared the low and high periods to get a sensitivity of 3 which kind of comparison acts as a reality check on the extremes of modeling.Now we enter upon another such curve but apparently with a very much faster attack and a much greater forcing.

  6. A couple of incidents recently are, the holes in Siberia which could be the first signs of melting permafrost and methane release, and the algae bloom in Lake Erie which suddenly denied water to 400,000 people. Over the next ten years both could become more frequent which would be a really bad sign.

  7. My wife and I share a website, (, and I have begun my own modest climate blog. My heartfelt thanks to Gareth and Hot Topic for material and inspiration. At the moment my son, Rowan Johnson, living in Germany, is posting blogs, and his latest, ‘Climate Change and I’ is one of the best accounts of the emotional impact this knowledge can have on us I have read. Being exposed to climate change awareness from a young age. How is this shaping our young people?
    I can only recommend it strongly to Hot Topic readers. Find it here:

Leave a Reply